Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervious; Comedy, Spain, 1988; D: Pedro Almodóvar, S: Carmen Maura, Kiti Manver, Julieta Serrano, Fernando Guillén, Antonio Banderas, Rossy de Palma, Ana Leza

Pepa lives in an apartment in some skyscraper, where she also accommodated some chickens and ducks. Together with her lover Ivan, she earns a living by synchronising foreign movies, and also occasionally stars in TV commercials. She is angry because she is pregnant and because Ivan often leaves her, figuring he must be cheating on her. Her new tenant is Carlos who accidentally states that he is Ivan's son: Pepa didn't even have an idea he had children, while another shock is the realization that her friend Candela is hiding from police since she had an affair with a man who turned out to be a Shiite terrorist who plans to hijack a plane flying to Stockholm. When police enters her apartment, Pepa knocks them out with sleeping pills in drinks. Ivan is also flying for Stockholm and her jealous mistress Lucia wants to shoot him at the airport. Pepa stops her and breaks up with Ivan.

"Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" definitely established Pedro Almodovar as a "woman's director", and also subsequently became his first film that was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA in the category of best foreign language film. Even though the main heroine is an actress, the story revolves less around her profession and more around the typical Almodovar theme of love problems, jealousy, infidelity and relationships, enriched - of course - with director's spontaneous eccentric style, bizarre humor and strange characters, ranging from Shiite terrorists to ducks in the apartment. Besides an inspired visual style, the quirky gags are the main highlight - in a taxi, there's an sign stating: "Thank you for smoking!" (long before the comedy film with the same title) while the TV news are getting read by a casual 80-year old lady news presenter who speaks so lethargically that it's a riot. Antonio Banderas, in the role of Carlos, has an unimportant episode, but Carmen Maura is great as the quirky heroine, and in between the "eccentric" looking Rossy de Palma gives a neat performance as Carlos' girlfriend Marissa, acting with her physical appearance as a living Picasso painting. The story is a little bit lost in context, it's campy and weird, with reduced emotions, but it has spirit.


No comments: